MLB Draft a different animal than most

Yankees have four picks in Top 66, but none may see the Majors for years
06/06/2013 12:59 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Derek Jeter is one of just five men since 1988 who were selected with the Yankees' top draft pick and later made their MLB debut in pinstripes.(AP)
In the NBA and NFL, and maybe even the NHL, a team having three first-round picks and four in the first two rounds total would likely mean a haul of rookies that would make an immediate impact the following season.

Alas, the MLB Draft is much different, as even the No. 1 Draft pick goes from college or prep stud to just another newbie in the Rookie or Short-Season Class-A Leagues right away.

That’s not to say everyone languishes in the Minors for years, let alone a single one; there have already been four players from the 2012 Draft to crack the Big Leagues – with a handful of others just a call away at Triple-A – but after one full calendar year, even the top two picks, Astros shortstop Carlos Correa and Twins outfielder Byron Buxton, have only reached low Class-A ball.

So, even though the Yankees have the Nos. 26, 32, and 33 picks in the first round and No. 66 in the second, you can understand if expectations and excitement are more tempered than, if, say, it were the Knicks, Nets, Giants or Jets that had the same haul.

But given that the addition of a second Gulf Coast League team this summer means the Yankees now have seven Minor League rosters to fill, general manager Brian Cashman is glad to have more than the standard 40 picks.

"I'm glad we have more picks. Every year it's an important life blood,” Cashman said. “We have the ability to use every tool in the toolbox because of our ability to spend in free agency, but the amateur draft is vitally important for us to do well in as well."

In the latest mock draft from Baseball America, insider Jim Callis has the Yankees taking a third baseman, an outfielder, and a pitcher in the first round – the latter of which is New Jersey high school senior Rob Kaminsky, a lefty who led Montvale’s St. Joseph Regional High School to the State Non-Public A Championship Game this year and is being advised by Derek Jeter’s agent, Casey Close.

Kaminsky is quite talented, as are the other two projected picks, Notre Dame 3B Eric Jagiello and Texas high school OF Billy McKinney, and Cashman reiterated that even though the system is chock full of top-notch pitchers and outfielders, that extreme depth won’t let him shy away from taking a true talent at any spot.

“We’ll take the best player, not necessarily best athlete…the best baseball player that's available,” Cashman said. “We don't draft by needs in baseball. It's not like basketball or football."

Tying into that second point, something else that makes the MLB Draft a different animal is that structure dictates that it’s possible that any or all of the three men whose names are called in the first round may never even become Yankees at all.

The last four top picks are still in the system, but in the 20 drafts previous to that (1989-2008), Andy Fox, Derek Jeter, Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, and Andrew Brackman were the only five men to be drafted with the Yankees’ top pick and go on to make their MLB debut in pinstripes, and many reasons abound for that; high school seniors can choose to go to college and any collegian with eligibility remaining could choose to return to school, so off the bat there’s a smaller selection of “sure things,” and sometimes, things just don’t work out.

The last time the Yankees had three first-rounders was in 2001, when they took Florida State outfielder John-Ford Griffin at No. 23, Hawaiian high school infielder Bronson Sardinha at No. 34, and Rice University RHP Jon Skaggs at No. 42. Only one, Sardinha, played in the Bronx – and that stint, his only one in the Majors, was limited to 10 games spent mostly as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement in September 2007.

Meanwhile, Griffin was traded to Oakland the following July in a three-team deal that brought Jeff Weaver to the Bronx and spent most of the decade in the Minors, coming up only for two cups of coffee with Toronto in 2005 and 2007 before retiring after spending 2010 in the independent Atlantic League, while Skaggs spent five seasons in the Minors before heading to Italy in 2006.

So, when the Yankees announce each of their first-round picks Thursday night, there will still be lots of cheers; that young man will get to live a dream, his family and friends will surely rejoice, and Yankees fans will scour the media to find out whatever they can about “the new kid.”

Just remember though, to take that with a grain of salt, because baseball is different – and by the time those Knicks, Nets, Giants and Jets drafted in 2013 make their debuts, the Yankees’ top picks will be, at best, finishing their first grueling summer in the lowest levels of organized baseball.

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